Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What I learned from reading romance novels



I've gone back and re-read some of my favorite Harlequins recently. My plan is to study them to figure out what makes them work, then use those principles and apply them to my own stories.

Here's a few things I've learned:

1. Keep the hero and heroine apart for as long as possible. Put obstacles between them, so that once they get past one, there's another one waiting for them. The longer they're apart then the better conflict/story you'll have.

2. Make your characters likable. Make your readers care for them so that when bad things happen, they will go with you through the journey.

3. Quirky secondary characters add flavor to your story but sprinkle them in carefully. Too much of them is like too much salt in a dish: unpalatable.

4. The importance of family and community (especially in the Heartwarming line) can't be underestimated. They can add to a love story as well as serve as obstacles.

5. Good romances are escapes, but they must still be grounded in reality. It's fun to get away from the humdrums and annoyances of every day with a good story. But the best romances are those that have a sense of reality in them. Our characters deal with real problems that our readers can identify with.

6. The power of a happy ending can't be denied. Satisfaction can be found in a happily ever after.

What have you learned from reading romance novels?

10 comments:

  1. Syndi, Great observations. I once intended to write Western stories and live on Bloody Basin Gulch Road north of Phoenix. All of those plans were tossed over when my youngest daughter and her friends wanted to "consume" Harlequin romances and I had to see if the books were okay for them to read. I got hooked and for all of the reasons you mentioned I decided to try and write a romance. It sounds easy, right? Ha, I didn't find it so easy. Not only didn't I get to live on Bloody Basin Gulch Road, but my husband was transferred to Seattle. The best thing possible for my new found love of romance books. I met awesome writers, and learned so much from them. And here I am after many years, still loving to read and write Harlequin books.

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    1. Roz, isn't it funny how our journeys change?

      I started reading Harlequins when I was a teen. And I've dreamed of writing for them since then.

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  2. I learned how many great writers and good books there are out there, so you have to work especially hard to be noticed by the reader. Fortunately, the average reader consumes romances in great numbers, so we get our chance to 'perform.' I've always loved books where the hero and heroine are alone together, hiding out or lost or stuck, throughout the book. I wrote one like that called "In Good Time" and thought I would go insane! I ran out of things for them to talk about and do, and finally created a lost cat so they'd have something else to focus on! Writing the stranded couple is hard!

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    1. I love stranded couple stories. I'm going to look for In Good Time. I like the idea of a lost cat!

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    2. Hi, Ruby! The lost cat, a marmalade named 'Peaches,' had a fan club for a while somewhere in Texas. Apparently those readers were happy my characters had something else to think about, too!

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    3. Muriel, I love that the cat had its own fan club. Too cute!

      I enjoy stories where people are thrown or stuck together. It's interesting to see how they get to know each other and learn to get out of whatever situation they're in.

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  3. I love road books, but found out when I wrote a "road chapter" recently that a book was well beyond my capability! :-) But I admit I like for the H/H to be together a lot, because it's how they get to know each other.

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    1. Liz, I enjoyr road books too. One of my favorite romances is "It Happened One Night" with Clark Gable. The way they were on the run, pretending they didn't know who each other was... Some great romance moments in that movie!

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  4. I'm hoping to write my first romance novel this year, and so when I am reading them now, I have that in the back of my mind, which makes for an interesting perspective.

    I very much agree with all of your rules, except perhaps 3. I love quirky secondary characters. I don't know that there is a too much for me with those.

    You would think make your characters likable would be a no-brainer, but far too many books actually don't do that.

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    1. Ruby, I do like those quirky characters! They make an enjoyable story even better.

      Good luck with your writing, and keep us posted on your progress!

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